This is the series for lesser-known players to make a name for themselves and grab a permanent spot in the one-day team, that is, if the weather would allow them. The first ODI was washed out and it’s very humid in Visakhapatnam, with a forecast for showers on Thursday. If the dark clouds can stay away on the match-day, however, youngsters like R Ashwin, Mitchell Starc and Ravindra Jadeja will breathe easy.
The continuing presence of Jadeja in the playing XI has baffled many an Indian fan. Here are his stats: A bowling average of 41.55 and a batting average of 31.47 at a strike rate of 76.97. He hasn’t sparkled with the bat or the ball with any consistency; the best (only?) thing going for him is his economy rate in ODIs: 4.84. MS Dhoni has pointed out what he thinks Jadeja should do: “For a player like him, it is very important to contribute with the bat and ball. He has to do a bit more with the bat.”
His bowling has increasingly gotten his captain’s backing: He has bowled his full quota of 10 overs nine times and seven of those occasions have come in 2010. His direct competition until recently was Yusuf Pathan: Yusuf’s strike rate is over 100 but he averages just 22.11. His bowling average is 40.66, slightly better than Jadeja, but his economy rate of 5.75 is almost a run higher.
Is R Ashwin the man, then, to replace Jadeja? Ashwin is a much better bowler than Jadeja, and has a lower economy rate when you compare their performances in domestic circuit. In more than half of those matches, Ashwin had yet to use his new tools, like the carom ball; he is a more complete bowler now. Jadeja’s batting is better than Ashwin’s, but he lacks the skills to demolish a good attack. So it will come to what the team management needs from the player who fills that spot: Is it a bowler who can bat a bit or batsman who can bowl? Ashwin fulfills the first requirement while Jadeja hasn’t quite managed to fill the second. Both will play in this series and the one against New Zealand, which should help the selectors to decide between them, or perhaps even go back to Yusuf, for the World Cup.
Australia too have a few youngsters in the squad and one of them, Mitchell Starc, might get his chance tomorrow as Doug Bollinger is a doubtful starter. “Obviously I’d love him [Bollinger] to play both these one-dayers but I think we also need to be smart with what we’ve got coming up,” Michael Clarke said today. If Bollinger doesn’t play, Starc might make his debut. Those who have followed his career rate him very highly. He has a pre-release load-up like Mitchell Johnson but gets more bounce. He even has a first-class fifty. The experts reckon he is a bit raw now but is likely to put up a stiff fight to his more established team-mates in a year’s time.
This series also will reveal the position of Shaun Marsh in the team. Will he play as an opener? If not, he will have to fight with the very talented Callum Ferguson for a spot in the middle-order.
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Watch out for…
David Warner is yet to learn how to construct a long innings. “Due to the volume of twenty20 cricket I have played over the past year, being able to actually play myself in and build an innings is something I am not all that used to,” he wrote recently. These two games offer him an opportunity to do it in on the international stage. We know he has the power-packed shots; does he have the skill to build an innings? We shall soon find out.
Ashish Nehra ‘s confidence is his strength. He was in the wilderness for more than two years but every time you met him, he would say it was just matter of getting fit and he would be back into the Indian team. To him, it was never a question about his skill; it was just his body that was playing truant. Ever since his return he has been Dhoni’s go-to man under pressure. It’s Nehra who bowls in the batting Powerplay, its Nehra who bowls in the end overs and its Nehra who often has to take the wicket with the new ball too. It would be very interesting to see how he fares against his nemesis – Australia.
Shikhar Dhawan will make his ODI debut and Dhoni has already said that Saurabh Tiwary is likely to get one game in this series.
India (probable): 1 M Vijay, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Virat Kohli/Rohit Sharma, 6 MS Dhoni (capt and wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Ashish Nehra, 11 Munaf Patel.
Doug Bollinger is yet to fully recover from the abdominal strain that ruled him out of the Bangalore Test. He bowled for the first time in the training today and his fitness will be assessed on the morning of the match before they make a call. Fast bowler Mitchell Starc is likely to make his debut in case Bollinger misses out.
Australia (probable) 1 David Warner, 2 Tim Paine (wk), 3 Michael Clarke (capt), 4 Shaun Marsh/Callum Ferguson, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Cameron White, 7 Steve Smith, 8 James Hopes, 9 Nathan Hauritz, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Doug Bollinger/Mitchell Starc.
Pitch and conditions
It’s currently prickly hot with high humidity indicating that rain might be just around the corner.
Stats and trivia
•The beautiful stadium, located on the National Highway 5, has hosted just two ODIs. This is where MS Dhoni announced himself with a violent 123-ball 148 against Pakistan. Sri Lanka’s Chamara Silva is the only other centurion on this ground.
•Nehra averages a very respectable 30.54 in ODIs, but it would be an understatement to say that he has struggled against Australia. In 12 games against them, he has an average of 51.75 and an economy rate of 6.14.
•Cameron White’s stats get better against India. He averages about 36 with the bat but against India it jumps to 42.16 from seven games. His strike rate against India is 84.61 which is higher than his career strike rate and he has also hit 8 sixes – about 22% of his total sixes – against India.
•India have a poor record of chasing against Australia: They have lost 34 games and won only 17 while batting second against them.
“We’ve still managed to enjoy it, to be honest. Plenty of time in the gym together but now we’re keen to get back on the cricket field. One benefit of not playing too much cricket is a lot of guys have been able to do their fitness work”
Michael Clarke says his team has tried to utilize the rain break to their benefit
“It will be a big learning curve for all youngsters. It’s very important to live in the present… Small and basic things that needs to be done correctly to make a mark at the big level. I won’t put extra pressure on them.”
MS Dhoni understands whats at stake for his newcomers.